Tagged in: veteran

Cincinnati Bengals release RB Giovani Bernard after eight seasons

The Cincinnati Bengals have released veteran running back Giovani Bernard, the team revealed on Wednesday.

Bernard, 29, has played all of his eight NFL seasons with the franchise that drafted him in the second round in 2013. He has appeared in 115 matches and rushed for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also had 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The former North Carolina player was entering the final year of a two-year extension he signed in September of 2019. The Bengals will gain $4.1 million in salary-cap savings with Bernard’s release and incur only $666,667 in dead money versus the cap, according to Roster Management System.

Bernard started a career-high 10 games in 2020 because Joe Mixon was out with a foot injury. His best rushing performance was an 83-yard effort in a win over Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, the Bengals’ first triumph over the Steelers since 2015. It was Bernard’s highest rushing total since Week 16 of the 2017 season.

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The Bengals have parted ways with several notable veterans who were part of the team’s playoff runs from 2011 to 2015.

The team released former All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins earlier this offseason and did not re-sign former Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

With his ability in the passing game and reliability as a runner in a committee, Bernard shouldn’t have difficulty landing a new gig. A club looking for a third-down back could find a bargain in the 29-year-old Bernard, who still has tread left on the tires.

Bernard is also one of the best pass-protecting backs in the entire NFL, a trait that many teams covet in their backup RBs. Cutting Bernard now makes running back depth a need for the Bengals. Joe Mixon remains one of the top-flight backs in the NFL, with game-breaking ability. 

Samaje Perine impressed coaches for stretches last season and should climb the depth chart. A pass-catching back is now a need for the Bengals, which could look to the draft to fill the new void.

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Quinton Dunbar, Detroit Lions reach 1-year deal

Veteran defensive back Quinton Dunbar is signing a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, his agency, Elite Loyalty Sports, revealed Monday.

Dunbar joins the Lions after an injury-plagued season with the Seattle Seahawks, who added him last March only to see him play in six games — all starts — because of a knee problem that required season-ending surgery.

Dunbar, 28, finished 2020 with one interception and five passes defended.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes had said the secondary was an area of focus for his team, which also signed free-agent cornerback Corn Elder last week.

“The corner position — and I can say it with more than just the corner position — is a position that we’ll continue to address now throughout the entire process, up until the draft and even after the draft, if need be,” Holmes told reporters last week, according to The Detroit News.

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“But it’s definitely a position that is not gonna be overlooked or ignored. It is a young group that we have now. I really like the group that we have, in terms of the youth and the upside. … But that is a position that we’ll continue to look to address now and through the draft.”

The Seahawks acquired Dunbar for a fifth-round pick in a March trade with the Washington Football Team.

He missed most of the offseason program and the start of training camp while dealing with armed robbery charges that were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Dunbar made 25 starts over five seasons with Washington, which signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2015. He started his NFL career as a wide receiver, then was converted to cornerback as a rookie. He has 10 career interceptions and a sack in his six seasons.

Washington signed Dunbar to a three-year, $10.5 million contract after the 2017 season. The Seahawks inherited the final year of that deal, which paid Dunbar roughly $3.34 million in 2020.

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New-look Los Angeles Rams add veteran to their wide receiver corps, secure deal with DeSean Jackson

The Los Angeles Rams agreed to terms with veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Sunday.

Jackson fills a much-needed role as a deep-threat wide receiver on an offense that will feature quarterback Matthew Stafford next campaign.

“We’re always trying to add some juice, and we’ll see what the next month and a half entails,” Rams coach Sean McVay stated Friday when asked if the team needed to find a wideout to stretch the field for Stafford.

“Every offense probably in the NFL would love a deep threat, right?” Rams general manager Les Snead said, answering the same question. “If I added to that, it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone that catches one deep ball a game; those can be low-percentage throws. But when you definitely have skill players with juice, that can threaten the top shelf of the coverage.”

Jackson’s deal is for one year, the team stated. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Jackson has recorded the most 60-plus-yard touchdowns (24) in NFL history.

The 34-year-old, who is entering his 13th NFL season, ranks sixth all time in yards per reception (17.4).

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In Los Angeles, Jackson reunites with McVay, who served as his offensive coordinator for three seasons with the Washington Football Team from 2014 to 2016. Jackson joins a receiving corps that contains Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and second-year pro Van Jefferson. The Rams also utilize tight end Tyler Higbee in the passing game.

However, McVay’s offense has lacked a true deep-threat receiver since trading Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans after the 2019 campaign.

“We need to be more explosive offensively, but we’ve been a really explosive offense with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Higbee being centerpieces of it; those guys are going to continue to be that,” McVay said.

“But when you talk about opportunities, you have to call plays that give you an opportunity to be explosive, and that’s where my contribution is. Anytime that you have guys that can do that, that definitely is a benefit.”

Jackson became a free agent when he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles in February.

Jackson’s return to Philadelphia was limited by injuries since he was obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, reuniting the deep-threat receiver with the team that drafted him.

The excitement of the reunion was fueled by two touchdowns of longer than 50 yards in the 2019 opener versus Washington, but Jackson wound up playing in just three games that season because of a core muscle injury.

Jackson then missed 11 games in 2020 with an injured ankle. Overall, he has 612 receptions for 10,656 yards and has scored 60 touchdowns (including four rushing and four punt returns).

He was selected by the Eagles in the second round of the 2008 draft and played six seasons in his first stint with the team, before joining Washington in 2014.

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A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals agree to 1-year deal

Veteran receiver A.J. Green, one of the most prolific players in franchise history over his 10 years with the Cincinnati Bengals, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, it was revealed Wednesday.

The deal is worth up to $8.5 million and includes $6 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Green, who will be 33 at the beginning of next season, will fill a much-needed WR2 hole for the Cardinals and will be the complementary piece to DeAndre Hopkins that the team was seeking. Both Hopkins and Green are among the top five in receiving yards leaguewide over the past 10 seasons, according to ESPN Sports & Information research.

“Time to go to work!” Hopkins tweeted Wednesday.

If Larry Fitzgerald returns for the 2021 campaign, Arizona could feature three future Hall of Fame receivers on its roster. Hopkins essentially carried Arizona’s passing game in 2020, leading the team with 1,407 receiving yards; the next-most productive receiver was Christian Kirk with 621 yards.

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Green will give third-year quarterback Kyler Murray another every-down threat, likely on the opposite side of the field from Hopkins.

Arizona ran three-wide receiver sets the most last season, accounting for 44.9% of its plays. Two-receiver sets accounted for 29.8% of the Cardinals’ plays, and they ran four-receiver sets on 20.3% of plays.

Green’s contributions with the Bengals dropped significantly over the past few seasons because of numerous injuries and apparent frustrations with his role in the offense.

He concluded last season ranked second in Bengals franchise history in career receiving yards (9,430), second in touchdowns (65) and second in total receptions (649). Green also holds the team record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games (five, 2013).

The bulk of Green’s totals, however, came during the first five years of his career. Starting with the 2016 season, the former Georgia standout battled numerous injuries. From that point onward, he missed 29 matches, including the entire 2019 season after he suffered an ankle injury in the first preseason practice.

Green played all 16 games in 2020 but had career single-season low totals of 47 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns. He caught 43.9% of his targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, the lowest of any qualifying Bengals receiver last season.

He was frustrated at times last season. In Week 5 at Baltimore, Green was asked about a sideline exchange in which he appeared to indicate that if the Bengals didn’t want to use him, they should trade him. Green downplayed the interaction in subsequent interviews.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection played the 2020 season on the one-year franchise tag worth $18.2 million after the two sides failed to reach a long-term deal during the offseason.

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New Orleans Saints to release WR Emmanuel Sanders

The New Orleans Saints are releasing veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders after just one season as they keep trimming their massive salary-cap deficit, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sanders, who turns 34 next week, confirmed the move in an Instagram post, saying:

“New Orleans it’s been real. Sucks we didn’t bring a super bowl to the city which was the goal when I signed but it was a blessing to showcase my talents in front of you guys weekend and week out. #Blessingsoblessings #Imafreeagent #Wheretonext?”

Sanders was due to make $8 million this campaign, with $2 million guaranteed. The Saints will save at least $4 million against the salary cap by releasing him — and possibly $6 million if they designate it as a post-June 1 release.

Sanders caught 61 passes for 726 yards and five touchdowns in 14 regular-season games last season. He caught another eight passes for 51 yards in the playoffs.

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The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has a total of 662 catches for 8,619 yards and 47 touchdowns in an 11-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and the Saints. He has been selected to two Pro Bowls and has appeared in three Super Bowls — winning a title with the 2015 Broncos.

The Saints now have a big void for a No. 2 receiver alongside Michael Thomas again.

The position will rank as one of their top offseason needs, especially since fellow receiver Tre’Quan Smith is heading into the final year of his contract.

New Orleans has now released veterans Sanders, punter Thomas Morstead, tight end Josh Hill and offensive lineman Nick Easton while trimming cap space this offseason.

The Saints will possible release linebacker Kwon Alexander as well, since he is due $13.4 million after tearing his Achilles in December. The Saints started the offseason nearly $100 million over the salary cap and had decreased that number roughly in half as of Wednesday morning after they placed the franchise tag on free-agent safety Marcus Williams.

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Former NBA All-Star forward Blake Griffin signs deal with Brooklyn Nets

Six-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin has signed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the campaign, the team announced Monday.

The Nets are using one of their veteran-minimum-contract slots to sign Griffin, sources told ESPN.

Griffin informed Nets general manager Sean Marks of his decision to join Brooklyn’s championship chase on Sunday evening, a reunion of sorts with his former LA Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan.

“We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season,” Marks said in a statement. “Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn.”

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Griffin had interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and cleared waivers on Sunday night after agreeing to a buyout on the remaining $56.5 million left on his contract with the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

The Nets imagine Griffin, 31, as a small-ball center alternative off the bench.

Brooklyn has solidified itself as a championship contender with the addition of James Harden to a roster that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Because Brooklyn will be in the luxury tax next season, the most it could offer Griffin as a free agent is the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception, according to reporting by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. However, Griffin will earn $29.8 million from Detroit next year and has $255 million in career earnings.

Detroit has entered a full-fledged rebuild under the first-year general manager Troy Weaver and the chance to play the franchise’s younger players has taken precedent for the Pistons.

Griffin was traded less than a season into a five-year, $171 million max deal with the Clippers, arriving in Detroit in late-January 2018.

Injuries have dramatically altered Griffin’s game, eliminating the high-flying rim attacks that marked his All-Star career. He now leans heavily on the 3-point shot and his ability to make plays for others.

Griffin averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 20 matches for Detroit this season.

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Minnesota Vikings release TE Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons

The Minnesota Vikings have released veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons, the team revealed on Tuesday.

The move saves Minnesota $5.1 million against the salary cap for 2021. Rudolph, 31, will become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.

The former second-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2011 issued a heartfelt goodbye in a story published by The Players’ Tribune reflecting on his 10 seasons in Minnesota.

“I got so lucky, because — I didn’t just get drafted by some team who ‘had a need at tight end,’ Rudolph wrote. “I didn’t just get drafted as, like, the nameless, faceless ‘#1 tight end on the board.’ I got drafted by a team that was all set in terms of need … but then drafted me anyway.

“I’ll always remember that: how the Minnesota Vikings wanted me — and wanted to bet on my potential.” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman weighed in on Rudolph’s release in a statement, calling him “one of the premier tight ends in the NFL and most influential and positive leaders I’ve ever been around.”

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“Kyle and [his wife] Jordan have made such an immeasurable impact on our team and community that may never be matched,” Spielman said. “The energy they have invested in the community, most notably through the End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, is truly remarkable. I admire Kyle and we will miss him and his family. We sincerely wish them the best.”

Rudolph had three years left on the contract he signed in June 2019 after the Vikings approached him to restructure his deal via an extension.

He was in danger of being a cap casualty this offseason with a $9.45 million cap hit and a role that has decreased significantly in the Vikings’ offense over the past two seasons.

Rudolph spoke earlier this offseason about his desire for a bigger role in Minnesota’s offense or elsewhere and said he would not be open to a restructure if the team approached him about taking a pay cut.

“I think I’m worth every dime of my contract,” Rudolph said on the podcast “Unrestricted with Ben Leber” in January.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m used to my potential and I’m used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’ve somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I’ve been forced to. It certainly wasn’t something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls.”

Rudolph caught 28 passes on 35 targets in 2020, his lowest output since the 2014 season. He churned up 334 receiving yards and one touchdown, the latter of which was a career low for the former second-rounder.

At 31, Rudolph said he feels he has “a lot of good football left” and will have an opportunity to play for his second NFL team. Rudolph’s impact off the field was well documented throughout his time in Minnesota. The tight end’s work with the Masonic Children’s Hospital led to him being the Vikings’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee three consecutive times from 2017-19.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that discussion with the team regarding his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is planned to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this season. The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary-cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

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Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had stated late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a regular football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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Veteran receiver DeSean Jackson released by Philadelphia Eagles

Receiver DeSean Jackson has been released by the Philadelphia Eagles, the team revealed Friday.

“Looking forward to my next chapter,” Jackson posted on his Instagram story before the announcement was made official. “Philadelphia it’s always Love. Appreciate Everything.”

The Eagles acquired the 34-year-old Jackson from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, reuniting the deep-threat receiver with the team that drafted him in 2008.

Jackson fueled the excitement with a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdowns in the 2019 opener versus the Washington Football Team, but injuries limited his overall impact the past two seasons. He played in just three games in ’19 because of a core muscle injury, and he missed 11 matches this past season with an injured ankle.

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Jackson has recorded the most 60-plus-yard touchdowns (24) in NFL history and ranks sixth all time in yards per reception (17.4).

Overall, Jackson has 612 career receptions for 10,656 yards and 56 touchdowns in 160 NFL games since being a second-round choice in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has recorded five 1,000-yard seasons.

Jackson also had rushed for four touchdowns and returned four punts for scores.

By releasing Jackson, the Eagles are expected to get around $6 million in cap relief. Philadelphia is currently projected to be about $50 million over the 2021 salary cap and will continue to shed salary prior to the beginning of the league year in March.

Philadelphia is also expected to part with fellow veteran receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles will be left with a young group at wideout led by Jalen Reagor, the team’s first-round pick in 2020, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins and John Hightower.

Jackson spent three seasons with Washington and two with Tampa Bay before Philadelphia reacquired him prior to the 2019 season.

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Carolina Panthers release DT Kawann Short

Kawann Short has been around the NFL long enough to realize what happens to guys as they age, stack up injuries, and get expensive.

Tuesday, it happened.

The Panthers released the veteran defensive tackle Tuesday, starting the process of clearing up some cap space.

They’ll save $8.6 million worth of room with the move, which will come in handy. With the salary cap for 2021 dropping from $198.2 million to $175 million (though it could rise slightly in the coming weeks), every dollar is going to count this offseason.

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This was a predictable move, and Short seemed to realize it

Explaining at the end of the season that he knew his combination of age, recent injuries, and finances made this likely.

“We’re all grown here. So you know what it is,” Short said the day after the season. “This is a ‘what can you do for me now’ business, so for me to have injuries back to back, it definitely put that in your head, whether the team wants you or not.”

The 32-year-old Short has played in just five games the last two seasons because of shoulder problems and had the second-highest cap number on the roster for 2021, making the move inevitable.

When healthy, he was a steady producer for the Panthers with 32.5 sacks in his first six seasons. And they’ll clearly need to find someone who can do what he did when well, as coaches have identified adding a three-technique defensive tackle spot as a priority.

Converted defensive end Efe Obada was useful there last season, second on the team with 5.5 sacks, but they’d like to find a productive starter to continue to use him as a reserve.

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